STATE HIGHPOINTS OF MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA, & WISCONSIN
A mountaineering adventure it was not, but an adventure it was nevertheless.
Back in the warm days of summer, I concocted this scheme in which my friend, Jason, and I could fly back to Milwaukee, go see the Cowboys-Packers game Sunday night, then drive up to visit Mt. Arvon, Eagle Mountain and Timms Hill, the state highpoints of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin respectively. Originally I planned to include Illinois as well, but it is on private property and they only allow access on 4 weekends of the year!
The scheduling had the following constraint - Jason had only 3 days off work! Therefore, it was a whirlwind tour taking a red-eye flight from Las Vegas to Milwaukee Saturday night. Since the time changed from daylight savings back to standard while we were in the air, we arrived an hour earlier. I'm sure Jason's parents were happy about that as they picked us up at the airport at 4 am instead of 5 am!
We got a few hours of sleep at his parents' house in Milwaukee before beginning our 1,300-mile journey. We drove the two hours up to Green Bay Sunday afternoon. If any of you football fans out there ever get the chance, visit Lambeau Field. It is an unbelievable environment, steeped in tradition. We had time to take a tour of the Packer Hall of Fame before kickoff.
The game was fun (for Packer fans), but not competitive, as the Packers walloped the Cowboys 45-7. Incidentally, the Cowboys were so embarrassed on national TV that they fired their coach the next day! After the game we drove several hours to reach the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, staying in the small town of L'Anse, MI.
The Hilltop Motel, in which we stayed, was quite small. When I had called to make the reservations, I was informed that since we were arriving after hours, "the key would be in 18." We later learned that meant the key would be in the door of room 18...we just walked right in! In the morning, after breakfast at a quaint coffee shop, we headed out onto a maze of dirt roads to find the highest point in Michigan.
The drive was by far the most difficult part as we "hiked" the final mile to reach Mt. Arvon at 1,978 feet. There was a nice monument and register to sign. Although the view from the summit wasn't much, there was a nice overlook a hundred yards or so away.
From there, we retraced our steps and prepared for a long, but very scenic drive along the southern edge of Lake Superior through Michigan and Wisconsin, then turning and following the north shore of the lake into northern Minnesota. As we drove along the lake, we passed many picturesque small towns, and absorbed much local culture listening to the radio. We determined hunting and drinking are the two major pastimes of the area, not necessarily in that order.
We stayed Monday night in the small town of Lutsen, MN. I found the people to be the friendliest anywhere I've ever been and the countryside to be beautiful. If it weren't for the unforgiving winters there, it would be a great place to live! Speaking of weather, we experienced great weather - sunny and unseasonably warm (highs in the 50's). We were very lucky as the following weekend they got two feet of snow! We would never have been able to reach our highpoints on the backwoods dirt roads if we had been there a few days later.
Tuesday morning, we got an early start on Eagle Mountain (2,301 ft.), highpoint of MN. It was wonderfully scenic hike and enough to burn off a few of the calories from the heavy food we had been eating. The hike was about 7 miles roundtrip, but until the last half-mile it was very flat. Along the way we passed Whale Lake, which had a thin layer of ice on part of it. We saw a beaver swimming back and forth, presumably building a dam, and we heard several elk along the way.
The summit had a plaque and a register and we took a break to finish off some Halloween candy! We didn't linger too long as we had a long drive to reach the Wisconsin highpoint before dusk, when they lock the access gate.
After a long day of driving like crazy to make it, we arrived right at dusk, but were happy to find the gate still open. We made the short hike up to the summit of Timms Hill (1,951 ft.) in near-darkness (I actually used my headlamp), climbed the observation tower, took a few photos, and were off. As we were leaving, they were locking the gate - perfect timing!
From there, we drove back to Jason's parents' house in Milwaukee, stopping at Real Chili, an awesome Cincinnati-style chili joint, before getting a few hours of sleep, then catching our flight back to Vegas.
It was a great trip and the weather was very cooperative. Although not the challenges of mountains out west, these summits had their own unique flavor. Jason registered his first three state highpoints, and I ticked off three more, giving me 38. I had to hurry home to update my Peakbagger account!
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Editor's Note: Ed teaches a very fine course for the Club entitled "Wilderness First Aid." Be sure to check it out next time it is offered.
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